Getting China's First Commercial Renewable Energy Micro-grid Project Up and Running
Distributed photovoltaic (PV) is an important approach to using renewable energy in cities that has huge potential for further expanding China’s domestic PV market beyond large PV stations. Micro-grid is an innovative and efficient way to support high penetration of distributed PV power through smoothing out the variations of PV power output and the adoption of a smart energy management system. It offers a viable new energy system model that can increase the use of renewable energy in China’s cities, help displace coal, and clean up the air.
In 2009, Energy Foundation China’s Renewable Energy Program (CRE) supported the planning and development of a distributed PV-based smart micro-grid pilot in Xinjiang’s Turpan New District. Focused on solar power, Turpan New District puts in place an innovative urban energy system that integrates urban planning, green buildings, smart micro-grid, and green transport. Its total installed capacity of distributed PV power is 13.4 megawatts, supplying green electricity to over 7,000 households and 20,000 residents.
The Turpan project was developed under the guidance of Mr. Wang Guangtao, chairman of the 11th Environmental and Resources Protection Committee of the National People's Congress. CRE supported grantee China Electronic Engineering Design Institute to collaborate with the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design and the Center for Wind and Solar Energy Resources Assessment of the China Meteorological Administration to do the technical design and policy analysis needed to get the project going.
But the project almost didn’t get off the ground. China’s Electricy law states that within a power supply area only one company is allowed to do power sales business. CRE’s grantees, together with the project developer, China Longyuan Power Company, spent three years in tough negotiations with the local power grid company. Wang Guangtao’s dedicated advocacy finally helped the project obtain joint approval from the National Development and Reform Commission, the National Energy Administration (NEA), and the State Electricity Regulatory Commission in January 2012.
Today, the annual electricity generation from Turpan’s distributed PV is enough to satisfy the total electricity consumption of all users in the micro-grid region, and the power grid balances the gap or surplus of PV power output at different time intervals. Energy storage facilities help smooth out the variations of PV power output and reduce their impact on the distribution network. The third-party ownership and operation model (Longyuan as the owner and operator) created by this pilot project also presents a more efficient new business model for distributed power generation.
The Turpan micro-grid demonstration project has provided a model for the NEA as it develops its 100 new energy cities and 30 micro-grid projects in the 12th Five-year Plan period, pushing China a great distance forward in distributed power generation.